Cool off with swimming-hole guru Pancho Doll
A motto tells much about a man. Pancho Doll has two: “Getwet” and “I get lost so you don’t have to.” And who is Doll? Forthe last seven years, the 41-year-old San Diegan has rattled aboutthe country in his Toyota Tacoma truck (250,000-plus miles andrising), hunting for the perfect swimming hole. He has publishedhis finds in a popular series of guidebooks, including Day Trips with a Splash: The Swimming Holes ofCalifornia.
For Doll, Southern California is a swimming-hole wonderland.”The geography here,” he explains, “is outstanding for them.” Whatmakes a perfect swimming hole? It must, Doll says, possess “theholy trinity ― height, depth, and privacy.”
Doll’s search for ideal swimming holes has had its perils. Hehas been scratched, parched, bruised, and ― recall his secondmotto ― lost. Visiting Tennessee in 2002, he was boxed in bypolice cars after being mistaken for a terrorist.
For good Southern California dunking, one Doll favorite isTenaja Falls in southwestern Riverside County. The road there canget rough, but the watery rewards are great. To reach the fallsfrom Interstate 15 near Murrieta, take Clinton Keith and TenajaRoads south 11 1/4 miles and bear right for about 1/4 mile. Gonorth on Tenaja Truck Trail for 1/2 mile to the boundary of theCleveland National Forest ($5 day pass; www.fs.fed.us/r5/clevelandor 909/678-3700); drive 4 1/4 miles (unpaved) to the San MateoCanyon Wilderness and park on the west side of the road. Hike thetrail north across the creek and follow the abandoned road uphillfor about 3/4 mile to the upper falls.
Pancho Doll’s Day Trips with a Splash: The Swimming Holes ofCalifornia (Running Water Publications, 2003; $19) is availablefrom outdoors stores, bookshops, and Amazon.com.